🔼The name Hukok: Summary
- Decree, Science, Loving Embrace
- From the verb חקק (haqaq), to engrave.
🔼The name Hukok in the Bible
There's quite a bit of confusion surrounding the name Hukkok or Hukok (spelled חוקק and חקק, in various surviving versions of the text), which is the name of perhaps two but possibly one single town somewhere in the north-west of Israel.
Hukok is mentioned as one of the cities of the territory that was assigned to Naphtali (Joshua 19:34), which appears to be where the territory of Naphtali touched that of Zebulun to its south and Asher to its west. Naphtali was among the tribes that reached Israel's collective northern border. It was also said to border Judah to its south, but that appears to be an observation from the time this text was recorded in its present form, because at the time of the conquest, Judah was a mere province at the south end of Israel, far away from Naphtali in its north.
The time of recording could have quite some influence on where the author placed the borders because they were by no means fixed. There were no border crossings the way we know them and borders tended to shift according to the expansion or contraction of the tribe's population of humans and cattle. This is why cities sometimes appear in different tribal territories at different times; it's the same city but the tribal border moved across it — Jerusalem, most famously, was originally Jebusite, then positioned in the territory of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28, Judges 1:21) and came only later to be situated in Judah.
The Chronicler authored later than the Book of Joshua and in 1 Chronicles 6:75 a town called Hukok is mentioned among the cities that the tribe of Asher gave to the Gershomites. That same list is given in Joshua, but instead of Hukok this list reads Helkath (Joshua 21:31; also see Joshua 19:25). How these names and cities relate is no longer clear, but it's plausible that two original settlements merged into one big one while the tribal border shifted east.
🔼Etymology of the name Hukok
The name Hukok comes from the verb חקק (haqaq), to bring closely near, or rather to engrave or decree:
The verb חקק (haqaq) basically means to bring closely near (the way a paraphrase "approaches" an original), but is in practice used to mean to decree or to engrave (since decrees were published by engraving them in stone). That means that God's laws are not means to subdue to but rather means to bring close. To obey someone means to slavishly comply, but to love someone means to generously give. The same difference exists between falling into someone's hands, and falling into someone's arms.
Nouns חק (hoq) and חקה (huqqa) both describe something desired or demanded; statements that express the wishes of an authority, whether a political authority such as a king or government, or an intellectual authority such as a teacher.
Noun חיק (heq) means bosom; the upper torso in which one's breath and voice coincide. Where the belly served as the seat of one's emotions and instincts, the noun חיק (heq) describes a hollow container in which one's conscious intent, one's reason and concerns are stored. Hence the idiom of bringing someone or something into one's bosom.
For a meaning of the name Hukok, NOBSE Study Bible Name List has Decreed and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads a rather skewed Appointed Portion. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret this name.
In our modern day and age, commands and decrees bring to mind governments, judges and police people, but in antiquity people still associated decrees with the "wishes" of someone who ultimate desired to bring someone near and embrace them. In the time our story plays there was no formal government in Israel, and (assuming Hukok wasn't named by a previous culture), the "carvers" of Hukok either engraved the social codes of a self-organizing society or else the scientific laws of nature that helped society maintain itself; all in an effort for neighbors to come together and society to near the Creator.